Answer To Your Question On...

Team Selection

By Greg Siller - Pro Learning Systems

Shortly, we will be holding a training/selection camp for our National Men's Team here in New Zealand. We were wondering if you could give us some tips/advice on how to conduct our team selection program. In particular, what sort of drills would be best to show the selectors and coach the strengths and weaknesses of individual players. Our training/selection camp will involve 4 two-hour sessions over one and a half days. We thank you in advance for your time and attention to this matter and look forward to your response. --Stephen

Stephen, your timetable to select a team is quickly approaching, so let's cover some issues. Decide up front, what type of players you want. Do you want a defensive team, an offensive team, a balanced team? What type of goaltending do you want, aggressive, puckhandling goaltenders, or defensive minded ones. This will help with your team selection.

Four components that you need to test your players on include;
- Individual skills (skating, stickhandling, passing, shooting). For goaltenders, these skills include their ability to move in and around the crease and their positioning with respect to the shooter.
- Positional skills (playing defense and forward with your partner). For goaltenders this includes placement of rebounds and the use of their skates/stick/pads/gloves for saves.
- Team skills. This includes getting all players into your offensive and defensive plays. You also need to cover special teams--penalty killing, power plays, pulling your goaltender, etc.
- Intangible skills. This includes attitude, passion, ability to control emotions and elevate them at the right times, teamwork, ability to listen and learn from the coaching staff, ability to pick up new techniques quickly and effectively, etc.

Now that we've covered the components, you should get a copy of my book called "Roller Hockey: Skills and Strategies for Winning on Wheels". This will help you with the specific drills and some additional "how-to's" when selecting a team.

Make sure your first session involves the individual skills (skating, stickhandling, passing, and shooting). This will give you the information to determine a players individual abilities and will also help you put together lines and teams for scrimmages/practice games. Rate each player with a scoring system.

The second session should involve some components of the first session with some positional drills, followed by a scrimmage (based on your initial pairings). This will give you lots of feedback to determine ratings for each player and will begin to show you who works best with whom. At this point, you should develop your preliminary list of players you want to consider for the team, players who probably won't make the team, and those who are on the bubble (you need more data on). Following the 2nd session, plan your lines for the next scrimmage. Continue to pair players with different partners to see who is working best with whom. If you haven't already done so, begin videotaping the players during the drills. This will help when questions arise from the coaching staff. It also gives you a different perspective on the player, one in which you did not observe in person.

Before the third session starts, talk to each participant to get a feel for what type of person they are (personality type and hockey experience level). Talk with them about some specific hockey situations and ask them what they would do in those situations. This will help you determine if they "know" the game or not. It will also give you some insight into their personality. The third session focuses on goaltenders in the beginning, after an initial warm-up. You should be able to identify your top 3 or 4 goaltenders at this point. Move next to 1-on-1, 2-on-1 and 2-on-2 drills. At this point you should be able to identify your top 6-10 forwards and top 6-8 defensemen. Work on some breakout drills, offensive zone penetration drills, and some defensive zone drills. Also add some face-off drills to see how players position themselves. Next comes scrimmage time. Setup your teams and rate your players. You might want to switch some lines to see how different players react with each other. At the end of this 3rd session, you should consider cutting some players from the tryouts so that you can focus on a smaller group during session 4. Typically this will be about 35% of the original tryout list (could be up to 50% though). Give those players that were cut some feedback on what they should work on and close by saying that you hope to see them next year if they improve those skill areas. If you have time to watch the video tape, do so at this time. At this point (after the third session), you should have identified the players who will make the team and those players who are close to making the team (on the bubble).

Your final session should focus on watching only those players who are close to making the team so that you can determine which ones will make it and which ones will be cut. If there are areas that you want to re-consider, select drills that will allow you to get more information. Start with some positional drills 2-on-1, 3-on-2, 1-on-1, 3-on-1, 2-on-2 drills. Work on some breakout drills, offensive zone penetration drills, face-off drills, forechecking drills and some defensive zone drills. Next is scrimmage time. By this time, you should know exactly who is "on the team" and should continue to watch those players who could be used as alternate players. Scrimmage time is a time to confirm that you made the right choice when picking specific players.

Following the last tryout, inform those players who didn't make the team of their areas for improvement and say that you expect to see them next time. Inform the players who made the team of their status and let them know that you want to meet with each of them later to discuss specific team issues. Good luck with your program and I hope that this information helps you out.

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